In April we have both “Tax Day” and “Earth Day” both of which involve some form of stewardship, so I figured it was a good month to talk about stewardship in the context of covenant membership.
In general, stewardship refers to how we manage our resources, whatever those resources might be. Our church covenant calls us each “to steward the resources God has given me, including time, talents, spiritual gifts and finances. This includes regular financial giving, service and participation in community that is sacrificial, cheerful, and voluntary.”
As it applies to talents and spiritual gifts, 1 Peter 4:10 tells us, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” In 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9, Paul addresses the issue of financial stewardship as he urges the Corinthian church to help with the needs of the Christians in Jerusalem. Paul encourages their giving to be sacrificial, cheerful and voluntary. “Each one must give as he has decided in his own heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
Paul says earlier concerning the Macedonians: “They gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:3-4). Paul gives another perspective: “…that as a matter of fairness your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness” (2 Corinthians 8:13b-14). Paul did not call for an equality of finances among Christians, only that when faced with a brother in need, we should give generously from our abundance. This concern for others’ needs as well as support of shared ministry is necessary for a healthy church.
As covenant members, we are to use the blessings that God has given us to bless others both within the local church and throughout our community as we seek to share the love of Christ. “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them; if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.” Romans 12:6-8.
John Calvin said on the subject, “There cannot be a surer rule, nor a stronger exhortation to the observance of it, than when we are taught that all the endowments that we possess are divine deposits entrusted to us for the very purpose of being distributed for the good of our neighbor.” David prayed to God, “Who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you” (1 Chronicles 29:14). Billy Graham reportedly said it this way: “God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.”
How we use our resources speaks to larger heart issues. Christ tells us, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). We are called to covenant together to use our resources so that, as Peter writes, “in everything God may be glorified through Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 4:11). Paul, referring to the gift he received from the Philippians, calls it “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God ‘will supply every need of yours’ according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:18b-19). May we glorify God through faithful giving.